12-day ‘Swab Drive-Thru’ for Davao City drivers starts April 26

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 24 April) —  The City Government of Davao has scheduled a 12-day “Swab Drive-Thru” program for drivers of public transport vehicles and delivery services starting Monday, April 26 as part of its heightened surveillance to reduce the spread of COVID-19 infection.

In her Executive Order No. 22, dated April 22 but posted on the city’s FB page on Saturday, Mayor Sara Duterte said there will be free Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) testing of “all drivers of transportation and delivery services” from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., on April 26 until May 8, except on  Sunday, May 2, at the Davao Crocodile Park.

A biker is forced to take the middle part of Leon Garcia St. in Davao City on Wednesday (24 June 2020) because he could not use the bike lane on the right already occupied by jeepneys and trucks. The City Transport and Traffic Management Office (CTTMO) has created bike lanes lately as more and more people adopted the mode of transportation with the limited availability of public transport because of the quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic. MindaNews photo by GG BUENO

Those who can avail of the free testing, according to the EO,  are taxi drivers, van drivers, jeepney drivers, habal-habal or motorcycle drivers, tricycle drivers, bus drivers, other drivers of public ground transport vehicles, and motorcycle drivers of food and online item delivery services, citing “Grab, Food Panda, Shoppeee, Lazada,” among others.

Mizarah S. Arraz, OIC regional director of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB)-Davao, on April 20 issued a circular, “requiring all public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers to strictly comply with the Swab Drive-Thru program of the city government.”

The EO said public ground transport and delivery services pose a significant risk to COVID-19 transmission.

Drivers don’t need to undergo quarantine while waiting for their test results, it said.

Public transport, according to EO 22, refers to a space, open or enclosed, where people are in close contact with one another and with high-use surfaces, which can be potential sources of COVID-19 infection.

It said the risk of infection is associated with ”sitting in proximity to an index case, time spent inside the vehicle, inadequate ventilation, consequential recirculation of contaminated air especially in air-conditioned public transport vehicles, the widespread use of potentially contaminated plastic barriers to achieve social distancing and contaminated surfaces like handrails, doorknobs, seats, etc., and the countless number of possible infected passengers getting in and out of the vehicle.”

Delivery or courier services, according to the EO, refers to transportation of goods such as food, postal or other items, from a source location to a pre-defined destination. The risk of infection, the EO said, is “associated with touching objects or surfaces contaminated by persons unaware tha they are infected.”

As of April 23, the Department of Health (DOH)-Davao Region reported 53 new cases, bringing the total cases to 22,955, with 798 active, 21,185 recoveries, and 972 deaths in the region.

Out of the total, Davao City, has the highest COVID-19 cases in Mindanao, tallied 14,326 cases, with 342 active, 13,300 recoveries, and 684 deaths. Davao de Oro reported 1,492 cases, Davao del Norte with 3,941, Davao del Sur with 1,557, Davao Occidental with 225, and Davao Oriental with 1,414. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)